We hate to break it to all of the hopeful parents out there: there’s no scientific formula for raising “good” kids. Parenting is much more of an art than a science, but that doesn’t mean you have to wing it entirely!
While there is no tried and true method to ensure that children grow up to be successful and emotionally developed individuals, there are plenty of techniques that can guide you in raising wonderful people.
It’s critical to instill life lessons at an early age, by rewarding behaviors exhibiting compassion, generosity and selflessness. Appreciation is a foundational value you can pass on to your kids, no matter their age. Whether it’s appreciating other people who have helped you, or simply appreciating what you have, this life skill can strengthen relationships and foster a positive mindset.
Here are four ways to instill a spirit of appreciation in your children:
Limit What You Spend Money On
Money can be a tricky topic for parents, especially when your kids are still very young and can’t quite grasp the impact of each hard-earned dollar. When it comes to financial lessons, the amount of money your family has doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do with it. Children pick up on the behaviors and philosophies they see in their parents; you have the opportunity to foster a healthy, respectful, and appreciative attitude towards money.
By establishing fun and budget-conscious play times, you can show your children that money doesn’t set the parameters for having a good time. This important lesson allows children to understand the power of “free” (or low cost) entertainment, and also introduces them to the concept that money is limited. The key here isn’t to deprive them of experiences or teach them that spending is bad, but to show them that a lack of cash doesn’t limit your ability to enjoy the day. Whether creating fun games to keep kids busy during long trips, playing card games at home, or throwing a baseball around in the front yard — establish the idea that fun isn’t always achieved by acquiring new items or paying for a luxury experiences; you’ll enhance your children’s appreciation of “free” entertainment, as well as their appreciation of money as something that can be used for special experiences.
Give Creative Rewards
When children achieve or accomplish specific tasks, try offering rewards that are unique to your family. One great example of this is to give “shared experience” rewards. What better way to shield against a materialistic mindset, than to steer away from using material rewards? By establishing special one-on-one time as a prize for a job well done, you can teach the value of familial interaction. Think along the lines of a visit to a fun museum, a game of backyard soccer or baseball, or even an outing to fly kites at the park — choose something that caters to your child’s interests, or a shared interest you have together!
When you pose a certain activity or experience as a reward, you automatically attach a positive association to it; not to mention the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with earning that prize. Your children are more likely to appreciate those special trips to the zoo or those kickball games with Dad that they earned through hard work and good behavior. Remember, not all of your kids’ “challenges” will have a perfect ending; trying very hard in math class and still receiving a “B” on the report card is a reason to celebrate, too. Reward based on character and effort, not final outcomes.
Make Chores a Regular Part of Life
Kids who are given responsibilities early in life build self-discipline and confidence — they also learn to appreciate the value of hard work. Steer away from handing out chores as a negative consequence for your child’s poor actions. If you are only asked to clean the counters or make your bed when you’ve done something wrong, there’s no reason for you to appreciate the gesture when someone else does these things for you. Using household tasks as punishment makes them something to be feared, not appreciated.
Instead, chores should be built into your weekly routine and shared among family members; even the youngest ones! Every child — at any age — can help with something, whether it’s sweeping the floors, feeding the dog, or simply folding the clean towels. When it comes to educating kids on the meaning of responsibility, ongoing chores introduce the notion that doing something for others is valuable. This can, in turn, promote appreciation and gratitude when another person completes a task that’s normally your responsibility. Above all, shared family chores teach the concept that taking care of a home is a cooperative team effort. We all live in the house, and therefore we all help make it a wonderful place to live.
Communicate the Power of Core Values
When parents share their core ideals and values regularly with their children, kids are more likely to act upon those core values within their own lives. Having honest, open conversations with your kids not only fosters a sense of trust between you, but also helps develop their sense of self — in a truly positive way. If your family’s most prominent core value is generosity, for example, you may instill this belief in children by volunteering time at a local soup kitchen. By observing how the less fortunate live and behave despite their circumstances, your children may begin to appreciate what they have all the more. Making a regular habit of giving back may prompt your kids to spend more time thinking about how to serve their community — instead of focusing on how the community can better serve them.
Developing a healthy appreciation of yourself, your lifestyle, and other people requires transitioning from ego-centric thinking to selflessness — in children, this takes cultivation from parents. There’s no one method that will fit every child, but as a parent, you can use every tool at your disposal to teach appreciation during the important developmental years. With the right guidance and an upstanding parent as a role model, appreciation and compassion hold a powerful place in your child’s life and future.